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Water rates to go up in Aurora

By Staff
Tax rate same as previous year
By CHRISTINA HALE
Staff Writer
AURORA — The Aurora Board of Commissioners voted Thursday night to increase water rates by 30 percent in the budget for the coming fiscal year. The tax rate will remain the same at 55 cents per $100 valuation.
The fee increase will cost Aurora residents not quite $10 more a month, according to town clerk Sandra Sartin. The average monthly water bill in Aurora is between $30 to $32 a month, but that includes garbage services.
“I spend $10 on coffee, but what’s it going to do to the poor people?” Commissioner George Jones asked.
The water department needs about $27,000 more than last year to cover maintenance costs on the water tower and the water system. The tower must be inspected during the fiscal year and is estimated to cost more than $20,000.
Commissioner Clif Williams said he was “shocked” by the cost of the tower. Sartin believed it was around $20,000, but Williams said it was closer to $36,000. Some of the funds are already available, but not enough, Sartin said.
Another $6,000 will go into the resin reserve, which is for materials to maintain the town’s water system.
Williams said the board was “faced with a tough decision … that had to be done.”
Jones agreed. “We can’t continue to take money out of reserves,” he said.
The board proposed taking out about $20,000 from the general fund to cover three months’ salary and benefits for a full-time police officer, $12,500 for the purchase of a police vehicle and equipment, an increase in legal fees and a new truck for the public-works department.
Last year, PCS Phosphate agreed to pay a year’s salary for a full-time police officer in Aurora, but the town was responsible for the $11,000 in benefits.
Police Chief Mike Harmon has completed a grant application that if approved, will pay the salary for the officer in the upcoming fiscal year.
Even if the grant is approved, the funds don’t start coming in until September, Harmon said. The town will pay the first three months of the officer’s salary.
Officer Michael Gaskins, Aurora’s full-time officer, has transferred to the Hyde County Sheriff’s office for another job, Harmon said Thursday. A part-time officer has been hired.
Jones suggested the board wait to hire a full-time officer until the department is approved for the grant.
The board went into closed session following the budget workshop to discuss contract negotiations involving the purchase of property at the request of Williams. No action was taken following the session.
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held Monday at the Aurora Community Center.